Infinite Obstacles, Marines combat more than just enemy

23 Dec 2003 | Lance Cpl. E. Ashley Thomas

With the threat of harsh winter storms over the horizon, Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., sent the combined forces of Headquarters and Service Company and "A" Company Marines to the training fields of Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., for the day. The biggest question of the morning -- Does anyone know why we are out here? The Commanding Officer of "A" Company, Capt. Peter Pace is surrounded by silence. After a few seconds, hands shot upward as the young devil dogs came up with their own answers, ranging from "Because we have to," to "If it isn’t raining we aren’t training." Little did the Marines know that the events that layed before them would show the answer loud and clear. "I think this was a great opportunity," said Lance Cpl. Ailyn C. Anastacio, clerk, S-1. "I loved being able to get out there and feel like a real Marine. Even if it was really cold, it was fun."The training evolution began with the Marines splitting up into 11 fire teams and tackling a three-mile run through freezing rain and snow with their flak jackets, kevlars and rifles. After making it to the firing line the fire teams crossed into the treeline, keeping an eye out for potential hostiles as they navigated the flooded underbrush. "Despite the weather, the training was motivating," said Private First Class Juan A. Moreno, clerk, fiscal. "Now I know that on the battlefield, the enemy isn’t the only force we have to overcome- climate conditions, the terrain... It’s important to focus on what we are doing because we could hurt a fellow Marine or even ourselves. And even though the weather was against us, I had fun running in the rain and getting a chance to shoot off some rounds."As the morning progressed, the rain and snow pounded harder and harder, creating a range-wide mudslide effect as the fire teams approached the berm with their rifles locked and loaded."That first hill was a giant mudslide," said Lance Cpl. Thomas J. Burmeister, fire team leader, second platoon, "A" Company. "It took some tricky footwork to keep from sliding down in on my back. All in all it was really good training and the whole situation gave great perspective on what we could face out in the fleet. This was the first time I had total control of the situation. Having that much responsibility really pointed out the concept of working as a team because if you don’t, someone is going to get hurt."By the end of the afternoon, soaked to the bone and frozen to the core, the Marines boarded the buses to head back to "8th & I" where hot chow and dry clothes awaited them. "Training like this is always good for morale," said Lance Cpl. Christopher T. Mason, second platoon, "A" company. "Even though it was freezing out there, it just made us move faster to stay warm. This is what we do, this is our job, and I’m glad we got a chance to take on more responsibility and take charge of our groups. Personally the biggest challenge was overcoming the weather because I’m from the west coast. Knowing I can handle that type of situation only makes me more confident in my job."The long drive home gave the Marines some time to defrost and catch some shut-eye but it also allowed them to reflect on what they had learned from their day in the field. Among the lessons learned -- Plan for the worst and hope for the best.